The cricket test currently playing out at the Basin Reserve will mark the end of two contradictory eras for our summer game.
Firstly, it will hopefully be the last invisible test match. The Black Caps won their past two tests on the final ball – removing England in Wellington to level a series and then scrambling through for a last-gasp single to defeat Sri Lanka in Christchurch.
Sadly, these remarkable deeds went largely unwitnessed. There was a solid crowd at the Basin, but New Zealand Cricket’s broadcast deal with Spark and Today FM has left the wider audience for the sport untapped. It underlines the need for broadcast deals on major sports to be about more than revenue – fan engagement has to be a crucial measure.
These remarkable finishes highlighted the cool-headed resolve that has become the hallmark of a fine generation of players – probably our best crop ever. And their era is also drawing to a close.
It’s likely when test cricket next returns to these shores, some of those fine players will no longer be wearing the black cap. The seemingly indefatigable Neil Wagner can’t have too much more raging at the dying of the light left in him. Trent Boult is already in an ill-defined unselectable space and (brace yourselves) even Kane Williamson must look at his recently injured elbow and wonder whether – for the sake of his family’s future – he would be better putting it to use over the next few years in mercenary T20 leagues.
Cricket returns to free-to-air television next summer. By the time the fans have tuned back in, the best may well be behind us.